Citizen access to teacher union negotiations

Harvey Silverglate wrote an article for WGBH where he describes his attempt, as a parent and taxpayer, to see what was going on with the City of Cambridge’s negotiation with its teacher’s union. Background: The city spends about $ 27,000 per year per student but that doesn’t include capital costs, so the total cost is probably closer to $ 40,000 per year per student.

Here are some excerpts:

I obtained the necessary permissions and showed up to the first negotiating session. When the head of the union saw me, she announced that the union would not bargain while I was in the room. The teachers’ negotiating team walked out. My letters from two School Committee members were soon revoked, and the contract negotiations proceeded comfortably in private.

It was at that moment that I became an opponent of public sector unions. Why? Because, it suddenly occurred to me, the public interest was not represented at the contract negotiations. The teachers were arguing for their own self-interest in terms of work conditions and compensation, as was to be expected, but the School Committee and school administrators were dealing with the taxpayers’ money, not their own. And it was in the pols’ political interests for there to be labor peace. The children and their parents figured very little in the whole enterprise. And so an outrageous number of provisions found their way into the contract year after year, seemingly all of them more protective of the teachers’ wallets and comfortable work-schedules – and the School Committee members’ elective prospects – than of the educational interests of public school students.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

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